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tv   Meet the Press  MSNBC  October 15, 2012 4:00am-5:00am EDT

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this morning on "meet the press," the fight next time. obama-romney, round two, this coming tuesday, as the race has tightened. our issues this morning, the debates in the closing weeks of this campaign. the economy. the looming fiscal crisis by year's end. and the debt fight. with the big entitlement programs center stage. they were the backdrop of a feisty debate between the v.p. candidates thursday. >> nobody -- >> mr. vice president -- >> no, you -- >> mr. vice president, i know you're under a lot of duress to make up ground, but i think people would be better served if we don't keep interrupting each other. what did swing voters think
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of the face-off? can the president channel the aggressiveness of his running mate. >> and what about the escalating battle over the obama administration handling of the 9/11 attack in libya? >> when the vice president of the united states directly contradicts the testimony, sworn testimony, of state department officials, american citizens have a right to know just what's going on. and we're going to find out. >> we cover it all this morning with our own debate. joining the conversation, virginia's republican governor bob mcdonnell. former democratic governor of michigan jennifer granholm. atlanta's democratic mayor kasim reed. republican strategist alex castellanos. and nbc's tom brokaw. and later, politics, satire, and lots of laughs. i go one-on-one with stephen colbert. in character --
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>> i don't really watch the news so much. i come in around 6:30 and i just say the opposite of whatever rachel maddow says the night before. and comedy just helps an idea go down. that's all. and it just makes you listen for a minute. from nbc news in washington, "meet the press" with david gregory. good sunday morning. it is a critical time in the race for the white house now. over the next eight days, think about it, we'll see the final two debates as polls show mitt romney now improving his standing in key battleground states of florida, virginia, and ohio. look at those polls. meanwhile, this weekend, people are still debating who won the vice presidential face-off as "saturday night live" had some fun with the vice president's over the top performance. >> congressman ryan, we begin with your opening statement. >> thank you. first of all, i want to thank center college for hosting us this evening.
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>> oh, boy. here we go. oh, man. >> four years ago, president obama made a promise -- >> [ laughter ] >> that he would bring down unemployment below 6%. >> oh, this guy. >> joining us now for our own debate of sorts, republican governor bob mcdonnell. he is the republican governor of virginia, and seen frequently on the campaign trail with mitt romney. the former democratic governor of michigan and now host of current tv's "the war room" jennifer granholm. rounding out the roundtable for the hour, the mayor of atlanta, democrat kasim reed. republican strategist alex castellanos. and nbc news special correspondent tom brokaw, who by the way moderated the town hall style presidential debate between john mccain and barack obama in 2008. so we'll have some perspective of what to expect from that point of view. welcome to all of you. governor mcdonnell, the framing of this is that things are moving in romney's directions. if you look at the polling in the battleground states, there has been a movement toward him after that first debate. what makes you think that is sustainable?
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>> because it was based on i think a sharp contrast between the vision of mitt romney and the record of barack obama. it's the first time that 60 million americans live got to see the two, and another 60 million or so through social media got to see him. i think it's a sustainable trend. and in virginia, i think that it's all about jobs and energy and the economy and debt. that's what the independent voters, that last 7% or 8% of swing voters are going to vote on, and i think mitt romney did a great job to show why his ideas over the next four years will beat barack obama's last four years. >> this is the cover of "the week" magazine. it says has obama lost his mojo and the election. i bet you don't see this movement toward romney to be sustainable. >> i think it's temporary. it was a question of mitt romney's style that got a lot of people looking again. but honestly, when it comes to
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this choice that governor mcdonnell has pointed out, the choice is so clear, and i think the momentum will be slowed not just by the president's performance at the second debate but by the economic numbers that are coming out that demonstrates that there has been clear progress. when we've got the lowest unemployment rate since the president took office, and you've got a huge boost in consumer confidence, highest in five years, highest housing starts in five years, the lowest foreclosure rate in that amount of time, the number of jobs that have been created. i think that will seep in. now, granted, we're not arrived at the promised land yet. no one has said that. but we're on the right track, and we can't go back to the same policies which romney has been espousing that got us into this mess in the first place. >> so you see this back and forth. tom brokaw, as you step back and look at where the race is, we talk about a lot of critical moments, this really is, with two more debates in the last eight days. >> we are moving rapidly to the second and third act to find out how this will all play out. talking to both campaigns, they
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thought that the vice presidential race was probably a draw on substance, but the republicans think that joe biden's kind of over the top behavior helped them because the country is not happy with the division in politics and the lack of respect that one shows for the other. i don't know how that plays out. i have always believed that vice presidential debates are kind of a separate factor. one doesn't move the other. the president has got to be on his game in this next debate. or it could slide even more for him. on the democratic side, they do think some of the movement is overstated at this point. on the other hand, look at what they are going to do next week in ohio. they are going to have the big dog and the boss tour. clinton and bruce springsteen appearing together. that's an attempt to really kind of stop whatever movement there is toward governor romney in ohio, which is going to be a battleground state as it always is. >> you know, sometimes it's criticism and sometimes it's fair that there's too much focus in these debates on style over substance. substantively, mitt romney is
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getting a second look. and we're talking about the economy, the fiscal cliff. a lot of focus on libya, which we'll get to in a moment. what do you think romney is doing with this second look? >> i think something big happened in that first debate that's beyond president obama not showing up. and that was that, you know, president obama hasn't really been trying to get elected again. he's been trying to stop mitt romney from getting elected. and that cracked. mitt romney was not the guy that barack obama had been painting for the past few months. he's not this radical baby eating, grandma killing republican. he is a very reasonable, practical, problem solver. that campaign collapsed. so, you know, i think president obama is likely -- he can't put out the fireman so he is trying to break the other fireman's knees. mitt romney showed up and was a very acceptable republican. barack obama now has no campaign for the future why he's indispensably needed. now his campaign against mitt romney has cracked.
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this is a man with two empty holsters. his campaign could collapse. >> we talked about the vice presidential debate, and a lot of focus here on the vice president and his demeanor. a lot of liberals thought he was taking it to ryan, and that's what people wanted to see. what the president didn't do the first time. but then there is the issue of the laugh. we captured some of that just in video form. as you see him laughing at all these different points throughout the debate. i thought at the time maybe he was watching, you know, something like "meet the parents" on the side that was making him crack up throughout the 90 minutes. john dickerson from "slate" magazine wrote the following which i thought really captured what we saw. in the vice presidential debate, joe biden found a way to be the participant and the guy in the barcalounger at home yelling at the television. he interrupted with interjections, sighs and quips. he appealed to the heavens and looked to the floor. when he wasn't engaged in those antics, biden laughed and smiled to himself as if ryan had sold him something illegal he just consumed.
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at times he was so dismissive he seemed just seconds away from reaching across and patting ryan on the head. does it matter? >> i think it matters. i heard all of it, and i don't agree with it at all. the guy clearly won the debate among independents. that's what counts here, people in the middle and undecided. joe biden won 51-30. he dominated the guy. i think he offered him an internship after it was all over. the fact of the matter is he dominated him. people can talk about joe biden. but what i think people like about him is he's authentic. the one thing about joe biden is you believe what he was telling you. the only thing we really know about mitt romney, this unchanging, is that he wants to be president of the united states of america. at a time when people are craving authenticity, i think joe biden delivered for the president. i think he activated the democratic base. and i think you'll see it in this week's numbers. >> governor, what do you think we learned about paul ryan?
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>> well, let me first say joe biden is authentic. and last week he said two important things to every voter. one, that the middle class has been buried during the last four years. of course, he's been in charge the last four years. number two, that absolutely obama and biden are going to raise your taxes about $2 trillion over the next four years. so what i would say is what we learned about paul ryan is he is thoughtful, he understands the budget better than anybody else, and that the top issue facing the country isn't bain capital, isn't mitt romney's tax returns, it isn't big bird, it's how to get the greatest country on earth out of debt and back to work. and when you look at 23 million americans unemployed, $16 trillion in debt, doubling gas prices, no coherent energy strategy, it's clear to me that the romney-ryan ticket had the only blueprint to get us out of this mess. we're not going to -- four more years of the same policies will get four more years of the same results.
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>> i think what we learned about paul ryan is he is as good as his boss at obfuscating what their plan is. he could not answer how he was going to pay for this $5 trillion lowering of the tax rates. he couldn't list a single deduction, a single loophole, that they would close, except he said we would go to congress. now, what they're saying is that we're not going to tell you, we're going to go to congress and, surprise, we'll see it after the election. it's the same stuff that -- >> where's the obama plan? he's had four years. he can't even get a budget passed. >> why? because you have a congress that has signed pledges not to cooperate. >> the obama budget was killed 535 to 0 because it raises the debt by $7 trillion. >> that is not true. >> yes, it does. >> we have got to in these final few weeks try to reach some resolution about this revenue issue. whether we raise revenue to deal with the debt.
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because whether it's medicare or whether it's dealing with the debt level at the level that it's at, without agreement on both sides, we're not going to be able to tackle some of the more difficult issues, tom. >> i think that both campaigns have failed to say to the american public, this is going to be hard. this is a real crisis in america. you look at the imf projections about where the global economy is now. they're saying you have to get your act together. we could be in another recession next year at this time. they've got to level with the american people about everyone's going to have to give something. and there is going to have to be some revenue raised at some point as well. i do think that the governor is right, and we'll expect to hear governor romney go after president obama this time about i want more details about your plan. you keep harping on me. i haven't heard the details in your plan as well. i looked at that debate we talked about a moment ago, it was playing last night on cspan, and governor, now president obama was saying, look, we've got a deficit of half a trillion dollars. i'm going to get that under control.
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this week, that deficit is $1.1 trillion and it happened on his watch. he has to answer for that. >> david, we have now had two debates with the vice president and president where mitt romney and his running mate have said that they will not put new revenue on the table. one thing that did come out in the debate between romney and obama was that mitt romney stood by his raising of the hand where he said he wouldn't take 10 cuts for one new measure of revenue. paul ryan said the exact same thing. >> well, that is a fact. they are not willing to raise revenue as far as we know except for broadening the base, dealing with some elimination of deductions, but nobody wants to cross that rubicon of raising new revenue. >> but there's a difference between raising revenue and raising taxes, isn't there? john f. kennedy cut taxes and raised revenue because of a growing economy. the word that democrats don't seem to understand is growth. which is what the country is looking for, growth in jobs. two very different philosophies. it's like a house.
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and i think the obama strategy seems to be, rich people are in a nicer room than poor people. hispanics are not in as nice a room as anglos. women are not in as nice a room as men. and you back up and the house is burning down. somebody needs to put out the fire, grow this economy. that's what we're talking about. i think that's what voters are seeing in this debate. romney has a plan for growth. democrats have a plan to kind of redistribute what we already have. that's not enough. >> you shouldn't misrepresent the john f. kennedy tax cut. the taxes when kennedy was president were cut from 91% to 71%. the taxes were skewed toward the middle and lower class. the tax base was at 91 to 71 for the top margin. the tax rates for the top earners right now are fundamentally different. they're in the mid to high 30s. what i'm campaigning on is solving the fiscal crisis. and you know that if we don't have new revenue, that doesn't
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engage in tricks, the congressional research service says your tax cutting policy hasn't worked one time. paul ryan couldn't cite an example -- >> can i do a joe biden laugh now? >> sure, you can do it. you look terrific. you have teeth as good as his. >> i was just going to say i talked to a lot of major business leaders who want romney elected, but almost to a man and a woman they say, we're going to have to pay more taxes in our category. what they want to do, however, is to benchmark them against spending cuts so they can get spending down to 20% of gdp. there will have to be a combination in their judgment. and these are private business leaders who run big companies, and entrepreneurial people, and to a man and a woman, they are saying i can afford to pay a little more if i think it's going to go for the right formulation about getting spending and tax revenue back in line. >> they're not burdened by the ideological fights. often they'll say we don't care. i want to move to an issue about leadership and foreign policy that's getting a lot of traction this week. and i think we should talk about
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it, and that is the issue with how the administration handled the attack on 9/11 in libya. we've seen this past week there was testimony on capitol hill from the state department folks saying indeed they asked for additional security that was not in place in benghazi at the consulate when ambassador chris stevens was killed. this came up in the vice presidential debate, and biden answered, and then romney answered the following day based on that answer. let me play both of those now and we'll discuss it. >> and they wanted more security. >> well, we weren't told they wanted more security. we did not know they wanted more security. >> he's doubling down on denial. and we need to understand exactly what happened as opposed to people just brushing this aside. when the vice president of the united states directly contradicts the testimony, sworn testimony, of state department officials, american citizens have a right to know just what's going on. and we're going to find out.
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>> it sounds, governor granholm, you have the vice president and the white house saying the next day, well, it didn't come directly to the white house. there were other people who handle all of that. the white house is saying one thing. the state department another. the white house saying the intelligence community gave them this information. kind of distancing themselves from that. this was an attack on 9/11 that killed our ambassador. is it sloppy the way it's being handled? >> let's be clear. first, on the attack on 9/11 that killed our ambassador and three others, the president has launched an investigation to get to the bottom of it and no one is more concerned about tracking down those killers to the end of the earth than the president is. the investigation and the knowledge of what's happening is an evolving crisis. you don't know everything on day one of what you eventually find out. that's why you launch an investigation. but what was said at the debate is not inaccurate. there was testimony in congress asking for more security, but that security that was requested was for tripoli, which is the
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embassy, not for benghazi, which is 400 miles away. the fact that the romney team doesn't distinguish between an embassy and a compound, i think, is indicative of perhaps their lack of information. but let me just say, they have -- the romney team is politicizing this. they are politicizing this issue for their benefit. and they are -- they've got a lot of nerve when the republicans in congress actually were the ones who cut $300 million from the administration's request for security to embassies. >> governor, is there a larger point beyond trying to seize on sloppiness or mistakes on the part of the administration a few weeks before the campaign -- or the election? >> i agree with jennifer. i think americans typically when we're attacked we rally together. we don't use it for political reasons. as a veteran, i feel strongly about that. however, it does raise a couple of larger questions, specifically is this really that some obscure video on youtube that caused it or is it about the same people that killed americans on 9/11. in other words, al qaeda.
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were we properly prepared? should we even have to worry about a request on 9/11 in the middle east in libya? shouldn't we be prepared anyway? but the broader question is has this administration's foreign policy in the middle east contributed to an appearance of the weakness of the united states of america, less secure, less strong foreign policy, weaker military, so we are more susceptible to being attacked. and i would say that these cuts that the president put in place a year ago and his absolute failure of leadership to reverse those that's going to cost virginia 200,000 jobs and weaken the united states military according to leon panetta, that's the broader question. hold on. >> talk to paul ryan about it. >> that's not the issue. people backed the deal because the alternative was default of the united states of america. everybody believed that the supercommittee would get the deal fixed. they didn't. now for a year plus, since last august, the president has been a bystander. he could go in there like the house of representatives that
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passed a bill last may to reverse some of the cuts and put it more on domestic side and he has failed to lead. >> i want to get a comment from you on this, tom. it seems to me one of the challenges for romney and for the republican ticket on foreign policy, beyond benghazi, is to say, ok, where does the republican party want to go on foreign policy after president bush and beyond attacking this administration for in their view being weak or not doing a good enough job working its will in the chaotic middle east at the moment? because substantively, whether it's iran or mideast peace or handling israel, there's not a tremendous difference on policy? >> well, in fact, i've been working in that part of the world for a long, long time, 40 years. i don't remember when the middle east was more unpredictable than it is right now, more fractured than right now. you have the arab spring. you have the saudis terrified about what will happen next. an aging leadership. you get back to benghazi. where was the intel not tracking
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the possibility of that kind of terrorist attack? it's been politicized, but that's how we ought to be down in the weeds looking at the intel and how prepared we are. we are not fighting conventional wars but we are still preparing in a way like we'll go to war against a nation state. we have to have a complete review of what's going on in the middle east, everything politically, culturally, and militarily. and that has not been put in motion by either campaign. >> hold on. respond to governor granholm saying that mitt romney has politicized this in the final few weeks. >> i think that's why we have a campaign, is to pick a strong president who can center this country's foreign policy. look, some of this is policy, but some of it is the perception of american strength and strength in the oval office. the world looks at this very bright president, but sometimes sees a man with a temperament more of a judge than a leader. on the one hand and on the other
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hand, he weighs everything and sometimes believes in nothing. he supports mubarak, undermines mubarak. says we can't take action in libya without congressional approval, but he does that. we see him leading from behind, which most people call following. and the world sees weakness here. and of course they take advantage of it. so it's not just policy. it is strength in the oval office. >> but one point that biden made, mayor, is calling out ryan and romney, when you hear things like what he was talking about, that there is weakness. do you really want another war? an important question. >> all we see right now is bush-like bluster. that's what we see from them. and it will take us to the exact same place. this contrast in investigations around the original 9/11 attacks, there wasn't openness. there wasn't transparency. there wasn't the kind of honesty. when you look at what we're going through right now, as horrific as it is, we are getting the facts out in two weeks. we're getting it out very quickly. and regarding strength, are you kidding me?
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the president of the united states through drone strikes and a series of other measures has been stronger than george bush ever was. he is the person, whether you all like it or not, who is the person that brought osama bin laden to justice. that's barack obama. and they may not like his temperament or all of the rest, but alex has to acknowledge, which way would you want this dealt with? the president has dealt with this crisis in a transparent fashion. that's what matters. >> more on this when we come back. i want to get a break and talk more about the next debate coming up on tuesday. how both campaigns are really positioning the candidates. the candidates themselves, how they are positioning themselves. we'll do that and also talk about what they need to do. later, stephen colbert meets the press. >> i also don't know how mitt romney would govern. he might govern as a technocrat, as like the guy from pepsi who comes in to run gm. he can't tell us what he's going to do because he hasn't seen the books yet. "meet the press" is brought
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we're back talking about next tuesday's debate. who shows up, and what are the attack strategies? if president obama has called former president clinton the explainer in chief, it seems like clinton, who was campaigning in las vegas this week, gave a preview of how the campaign is going after romney now. watch. >> i had a different reaction to that first debate than a lot of people did. i mean, i saw -- i thought, wow.
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here's old moderate mitt. where you been, boy? i missed you all these last two years. to just show up with a sunny face and say, i didn't say all that stuff i said the last two years. i don't have that tax plan i had for the last two years. are you going to believe me or your lying eyes here? come on. what? >> that last line alone is worth playing the whole clip. governor mcdonnell, the charge is romney is in a position to say anything he has to close the deal. >> that's nonsense. bill clinton said at the convention nobody could have possibly fixed those things in four years. so i think what you have is the same mitt romney you've had for this campaign by saying, listen, the president has tried. his policies just haven't
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worked. this is a serious election about how do we get 23 million people back to work, eliminate $16 trillion in debt, do something about the energy prices which have doubled. $4,000 decline in the average american take-home pay. more people on food stamps. one in six in poverty. there's not a good record. and we can't have four more years like that. here are my practical solutions. and he has laid out repeatedly a five-point plan, with debt reduction, energy development, trade and small business development, a practical solution, and i think that's what people want. >> governor granholm, he is signalling some level of practici practicing /* pragmatism. >> he is like a human rorschach test. he is like a trojan horse coming in to occupy d.c., but inside are trickled down generals and
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neocons who wrote the bush plan. he is a good pitch man for sure, and that's why i think the second debate it will be interesting to see how it plays out because he can sell something. that's what he's been doing. but the reality is, who is this man and what's really behind this facade? you can't say different things for all of the different audiences and expect that people know your core. >> alex? >> well, i think it's kind of funny to hear slick willie if we all remember him who was all over the place on everything criticizing mitt romney for his inconsistency. and this president who ran as a candidate that was for pay as you go budgeting, the biggest deficits in history, this president who reviled the bush tax cuts and their, quote, philosophy and then extended them, this president has been all over the map. he can't go there. the truth about mitt romney that i know is that he's a conservative guy. socially. it comes from his faith and his family. the other part of mitt romney, though, is a very practical problem solving businessman, and that's what people saw in that debate. guess what?
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we've got some real serious practical problems to solve, and i think that's what makes him very attractive. >> on the other side of this is how, mayor, the president approaches a second debate, a third debate, and a second term. this is a new ad, part of a new ad he has, kind of a closing argument here. watch. >> the president inherits challenges. few have faced so many. four years later, our enemies have been brought to justice. our heroes are coming home. assembly lines are humming again. there are still challenges to meet. children to educate, a middle class to rebuild. but the last thing we should do is turn back now. >> and yet here "the washington post" just this morning has this editorial and the headline is, show me a policy. mr. obama has yet to say how he would solve the immense problems awaiting the next president immediately after election. until and unless he does, the only rationale he can offer voters is the urgency of stopping the other guy. that is a challenge for him,
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isn't it? >> i think it's a challenge. i think the president has to step up. i think of the first muhammad ali fight in 1971. people thought he would beat joe frasier. he got hit in the jaw in the 15th, but he won the second and the third. history remembers the winners. what we know about mitt romney is we said on this program three weeks ago everybody thought that mitt romney was done. he had a very strong debate performance. but it took the stench of defeat to free him from the far right of the republican party. he got to move away because he was in such a desperate position that he got to say whatever he wanted to say. so defeat and the worry of defeat allowed him to run away from his $4.8 million tax cut that he wanted to provide, it allowed him to start claiming parts of president obama's health care plan, and the president of the united states has got to stand up and every time sharply address him and not let him get away with it. he is a great salesman. i'd buy a car from him.
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>> tom, how do you see it? >> i see it as good for the country. i think these debates have reenergized the country. i think that the two candidates have to have big ideas and they're going to have to be explained not only coherently but practically speaking. they'll have to be candid with the american public. i think we'll hear from president obama as we did not in that first debate a lot more about the 47% remarks, about the auto bailout for general motors. i think the challenger, governor romney, will be saying once again are you better off now than you were four years ago? where is that plan? so this is good for the country. and i like forward to it. here are some things we have not talked about. we have not talked about immigration so far. no discussion of global warming. there has been no discussion across the country, including in the state of virginia, public pensions that are unfunded. and that's a burning fuse for this country and that will play into it downstream as
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municipalities and the states look for help from the federal government. it's a tough time. and i think the american public as i talk to them want detailed answers and candors and don't smoke me this time. >> one more on format. you moderated the town hall format. this is not a slug fest. this is different. >> yeah. >> you have to have some range. >> this becomes very personal. and it's tricky for the moderator. i said that candy crowley ought to get combat gear. and the candidates tend to run over on their own rules. but does it work for one or the other? i think it's a chance for governor romney to identify with the common man and woman. if he can do that, i think for president obama, he has to go back to how successful he was four years ago and offer more detail. >> well, mitt romney has been doing town halls for five years. he is very good at this. president obama was terrific in this format. maybe both these guys are good
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and we can actually have a debate on substance. who knew? something to break out here. >> we'll take another break and come back with more from the roundtable, including my interview with stephen colbert, the man behind the character, and what he really thinks about the political system. >> there's an entire industry, a political industrial complex, that is not only raising money you know, i was once used for small jobs. yeah, and i took on all the bigger, tougher ones. but now that mr. clean's got this new select-a-size magic eraser, i mean, he can take on any size job. look how easily he gets things cleaned. it's enough to make you cry. you, specifically. not me. i'm just happy we don't go near rex's mobile home as often. because it's hard to clean or because you're scared of an itty-bitty doggy? [ dog barks ] aah! oh! [ clears throat ] yeah, that was a sneeze. i think i sprayed myself. [ male announcer ] new mr. clean select-a-size magic eraser. lets you pick the right size for every job.
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select-a-size magic eraser. [ feedback ] attention, well, everyone.
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this week i sat down with the host of "the colbert report" for a rare, behind the scenes look at the man and the character from his office in new york. stephen colbert, welcome back to "meet the press." >> it is a thrill. i cannot wait to meet the press. bring them in! bring all of the press in. >> let me ask stephen colbert the character -- >> hold on. hello! i'm stephen colbert! go ahead. >> who has the edge in this race
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right now? >> romney, obviously. did you see him the other night? that guy is on fire. he was on a rocket ride to plausible at this point. did you what up? >> i did. it was a strong debate. >> what was it like? i didn't see it. i don't really watch the news so much. i come in around 6:30 and just say the opposite of whatever rachel maddow says the night before and i'm usually good. >> what does the real stephen think? >> what? >> what does the real stephen think about the race? >> don't yank my string around. the real stephen is actually pleased at the performer that mitt romney got his [ bleep ] upon. because i model conservative punditry. and if he doesn't -- if he's not someone i can follow, then i'm lost. and i have to say up until wednesday night, i just thought, i don't know what i'm going to do for the next month. >> because why? >> he was just a walking, shambling mound of weakness. you know, even the people who liked him didn't seem to be behind him that strongly. people were, you know, stepping
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out of his boat. you know, all saying, hey, that's the guy? i'll be right there. no, i'm just trying the life jacket on right now. do i have to self inflate or do i pull the cord? >> and that all changed. >> now he's the man. now he's got these long luscious coat tails and everybody is jumping onboard. >> is it hard for guests to adapt to you in character? what do you like to tell them before hand? >> i say the same thing. i said it to you. which is, listen, thank you so much for coming. because i'm grateful. i know it must be kind of a tough booking sometimes because it's not like going on charlie rose, you know. you don't know necessarily what i'm going to say or what i'm going to ask because i'm an active idiot. and as i say to the guests, i say thank you for coming. have you ever seen the show? i do the show in character. he's an idiot. he is willfully ignorant of what you know and care about. please disabuse me on my ignorance and we'll have a great time. but sometimes they forget. i had senator bob kurie on.
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it was the 9/11 commission report. very early on, about four or five months into the show, and i said that backstage. about three minutes into a seven-minute interview, i don't know what i said, but he turned to me and he said, what the hell are you talking about? but in the middle of the interview, i couldn't explain to him what it was. and then he just took the mic off and left as soon as the interview was over. i hope at some point someone explained to him that i was just fooling around and i'm very sorry. >> there's a course at boston university, professor rodriguez has a syllabus that we got a hold of -- >> i'm not familiar with what you're about to talk about. >> this is a course at boston university about american satire and it references heavily the colbert report. and this is what he describes. colbert satirically exposes hypocrisy inviting us to think more seriously about political issues. >> i do not get paid enough. i didn't realize i was that
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brilliant. i thought i was making the occasional poop joke. >> do you -- you are a performer, but you also do make a point. >> well, yeah. i'm a satirist. all satirists make points. satire is parody with a point. that's all it is. and so if i was doing satire and didn't have a point of view, then that would be truly like schizophrenic. i always have a point of view. i care about the news. we do 160 shows a year. 161 shows a year. and you can't do that unless i guess you care a little bit about what you're talking about. or i couldn't. some people could, but i can't do that. and i'm interested in the news. and people often think that i'm an idealogue or that i have a political intent. when john and i did the rally two years ago, they thought that had a political intent. but i comment on things that are in the new.
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i am not a newsman. i really admire newsmen and i enjoy good news and i'm not a politician. but i like playing political games to see what really happens in them. that's why i formed a super pac. that's why i ran for president or formed an exploratory committee. >> what did you expose about politics by testifying about immigration on capitol hill, which some people were critical of, or -- >> i would say that everyone was critical of. you're being very generous. i would do it again in a minute. what an honor to be asked to go do it. once you're asked, you know, and to say, well, i'm only going to do it if i can do it in character because i've got no business doing something like that, but my character thinks he does. and through him, i can say things that are hopefully in a more palatable way than i could have. >> but that's where you're a performer making a point. what have you exposed about politics through those examples you just mentioned? >> well, that, the congressional one is that congress is like eighth grade recess.
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they are so nasty to each other. and i didn't think they could give a damn whether it was me but they saw it as a way to beat on each other. or the republicans saw it as a way to beat on the democrats. and maybe it was a valid way to beat on them, but they sure knew a weapon when they saw one. the super pac was an act of discovery. an example. it was an act of discovery because i didn't intend to have a super pac. i intended to make a joke about tim pawlenty's unbelievably over the top ad, like a michael bay voice of god, you know, preaching to america from the surface of the moon, tim pawlenty saves our country, and i couldn't figure out how to end it. at the end it just said liberty and i said let's put on ours. and that led to one thing and then another, including a lot of lawyers. there's an entire industry that
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i didn't know that is not only raising money but built on raising money off the fact that there is so much money in politics. and almost no rules. >> a lot of what your character does, a lot of what you do through the program, is similar to what you're talking about the super pac, exposing what's absurd or what simply doesn't work about politics and about our institutions of government, which i think a lot of your followers and your viewers believe. >> well, i don't know if i expose it. but i try to be aspects. i try to put myself in the news or embody the thing. john does what's called pure deconstruction, where he picks apart what's happened in the day's news and lays it out to you like a cadaver. but i falsely reconstruct the news. >> mitt will put the leaders of iran on notice. >> so that's a different way of doing the job. >> to make a point of absurdity, right? >> exactly. and if i do it, and something in the news is doing it, that thing, that real thing, is
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probably bull. because if i can go out and do it, and it is happening in the real world, the close ter is to me, the less you should trust it. >> why do you think so many people think you and jon stewart are more effective at exposing hypocrisy, getting to real truths, than the news media is? >> i don't know if that's the case. >> well, i think certainly there are people who believe that. >> ok. they're entitled to their beliefs. i don't know. jokes make me palatable. i would say that. comedy just helps an idea go down. that's all. and just makes you listen for a minute. >> we've been talking some about the absurdity of politics, the political discourse. so here comes your book. >> about damn time. the qvc guys are coming in in a minute, order now and you'll get one.
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>> this goes right to what you're talking about in this campaign, "america again: re-becoming the greatness we never weren't," at a time when you write about america's perfect, now we should change it. >> fix it. america is perfect and we have to fix it, ok? because america is an exceptional country. >> why write another book here? >> what? >> i mean, you've written others. >> you obviously haven't read it if you have to ask that question. hey, homer. "iliad" was good. why write "the odyssey"? god, why two testaments? one was fine. really? wow. you've already found someone to marry you, right? because you are rude. [ laughter ] >> i understand. >> you felt the need to rewrite this. >> well, i don't know how things are going up there in network town, but down in america, people are hurting, david gregory. this book has common sense answers to people's problems, you know?
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it tells you how to find a job. >> does the outcome of this election change anything significantly? >> well, sure. sure. i'm not ralph nader. you know what i mean? i don't think that there's no difference. there is a difference. i don't know what the difference is, though, because i think there is a possibility that obama would be, say, more aggressive -- a more aggressive reformer or changer in the second act of this presidency, and i don't know how mitt romney would governor. he might govern as a technocrat. that sort of has been his career, like the guy from pepsi that comes in to run gm. he can't tell us what he'll do because he hasn't seen the books yet. but we don't know because he seems absolutely sincere as a moderate and also as a severe conservative. so that's not a dig. it's honest confusion. he's got a good shot at winning. and if he does, i hope he's a good president.
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and if obama wins, i hope he keeps some of the promises he didn't keep the first time. but i have no idea how it changes for us. but i know there's got to be a difference between the two men, or we're all part of a huge cruel joke. >> stephen, any thought of running for political office yourself? >> no, no. absolutely none. i have said terrible things with a straight face on camera. can you imagine the political ads that could be run against me? can you imagine? >> stephen colbert. the full interview on our website, mayor, the interesting thing about him, his comic genius, his work ethic, and his credibility as a satirist, what is the lesson, frankly, that politicians should take away from the reach that a colbert has and that a jon stewart has? >> first of all, you deserve combat papers. that was something. i would say it's authenticity. people want that on both
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republicans, independents, moderates. that's what i hear. and the people that will break through in the future are the ones that people believe. when you say something, they believe what you say. that's why tom brokaw is who he is. and that's why his voice is so valued. i'm happy to meet you. but i think that's what people want. >> tom, you know both colbert and stewart well. and their impact is real in terms of shaping opinion, particularly how young people view the political process. >> jon came to me when he first started. i barely knew him. he was a stand-up comic at the time, and he said do you think the country is ready? i grew up with lenny bruce. and what i always thought was they brought people into the arena. what these two do so brilliantly is that they cut through the hypocrisy and say, hey, wait a minute, on both sides. and they do play it pretty much down the middle, you know. both groups will say they are more unfair to us than the other one, but they have lifted the idea that this is the greatest arena that we have, our political arena.
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and young people are now engaged in it. i'm not troubled by young people saying, hey, i think that's where i get my news, because in fact they do get some news from that. you know, they roll the tapes. they point out the differences between what they said yesterday and today. so i never miss them. >> in a country that's atomizing itself into pieces, we want things to bring us together. and one of the functions of humor is that when w smile at the same things and laugh at the same things, guess what, that means we look at the world the same way. right now, that function used to belong to politicians who would bring us together. now it belongs to humorists. >> i want to ask both of you governors here with a little over a minute left, governor mcdonnell, moving back to the big showdown we'll see on tuesday, what's decisive here? not just in the debate but the final week, not just the economy. as voters look at these two men, what's going to make the difference? >> practically it comes down to about seven states and maybe 7% of the voters in those states. that's the way the math works
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out, including in virginia. i think back to the great comments that were just made. people are hurting, and that's what stephen colbert was trying to say in a humorous way. so people will say, who has the uplifting vision? at the end of the day, it's not just going to be rhetoric but how do i make life better for me, my family, whether it's my gas prices, my job, my daily living? who really understands and will make it better? how do we make the great generation that tom brokaw wrote about, how do we get that spirit of american exceptionalism back into the consciousness of the american people? >> i think it's encapsulated in the vice presidential debate, when joe biden looked at the camera and said, who do you trust on these issues to fight for you? if people trust that that person is going to go to bat for them, and i think the decision will be clearly in the president's favor, frankly. >> all right. we'll leave it there. thank you all very much. much to watch for here on tuesday. and beyond. stay with nbc news for full coverage of the big showdown
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this tuesday night. obama versus romney, the rematch. it all starts at 9:00 p.m. eastern. i'll join brian williams and our nbc news team for full analysis. and remember it's just a few days later, the following monday, that we have the final debate with a focus on foreign policy. so a lot to watch for. 23 days away. so a lot to watch for. 23 days away. and it all ci'm done! "are you a cool mom?" i'm gonna find out. [ female announcer ] swiffer wetjet's pads are better than ever. now they have the scrubbing power of mr. clean magic eraser so you don't have to get down on your hands and knees to scrub away tough, dried-on stains. hey, do you guys think i'm "momtacular" or "momtrocious"? ♪ [ female announcer ] swiffer. now with the scrubbing power of mr. clean magic eraser.
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